Father's Day is June 16

One of my most vivid alcohol-related memories is going to Kyoto in the summer of 2003 and trying my first oolong-hai. My dad's third wife turned me on to the oolong-hai the moment she casually ordered me a tall glass as we sat in an izakaya overlooking the Kamo river after a long day of sightseeing in the scorching humidity of Japan's former capital.

Everything was so full of promise in the summer of 2003: I was newly single, my dad was in love again and shochu was still just a humble drink for the working man.

When the tall glass full of ice and golden brown tea with shochu arrived, I took a long sip. It reminded me of a rated-R version of the mugi-cha (iced barley tea) my mom would have ready in the fridge for us everyday after school.

6 parts oolong tea (substitute with sencha (green tea) for a sencha-hai)
4 parts shochu (I recommend satsuma imo (sweet potato) or mugi (barley))

1. Fill highball glass with ice almost to the rim
2. Pour shochu (the more shochu you pour, the more NC-17 this drink becomes)
3. Add oolong tea
4. Stir


The tea and ice combination makes the oolong-hai exceptionally refreshing. I would describe it as earthy because of the tea leaves colliding with the shochu, especially with the sweet potato version. The aroma is sweet and roasted, and tastes like iced tea for adults.

A bottle of Sakuemon satsuma imo shochu.

Column: Japanify


  • Great post! Had this back in India at a Japanese Izakaya near CyberHub. The only alcoholic drink I actually enjoyed drinking!
    Looking for places that serve this here on Canada.

    Ruben. Thayil on

  • what a beautiful post. i can feel the humidity of kyoto and see the water sweat on the tall glass. sounds like an opening of a story, yet it can end just here. beautiful.

    mika on

  • i am suddenly very thirsty for an ice cold beverage of…

    chung-hai on

  • Nice post, drinking one now.

    Rabite on

  • Chung-hai – thanks for checking out the post. Did you get your ice cold beverage yet?

    Mika – Thank you for such a wonderful comment! Are you from Kyoto?

    yoko on

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